Bright Lights

deer crossingMy parents live in a rural area in Southern Utah, about 40 miles from…well…anything. It’s a lovely area, mostly nice and quiet, with the expected wildlife like coyote, snakes, rabbits, squirrels, pheasant, elk and of course, the deer that wander all over and sometimes visit the yard. When we lived in Las Vegas (and when I’ve returned to the area on vacation since then), it was always imperative to plan arrival times at their house for the daylight hours, at least for me. See, if I headed for their house in the late afternoon, I was always sorry, because I’d be driving through the countryside on these twisty, curvy, two-lane roads at twilight or after dark, sharing road space with the deer.

If I didn’t time it right, I’d arrive at their house completely stressed out with aching knuckles from gripping the steering wheel so hard, just waiting for that deer to jump out in front of the car from the side of the road. What a great start to a vacation, huh? I never hit one, but I was always just sure that at some point I would, and I’d be facing those scared, shining eyes across the hood of my car as I came around a blind turn and the headlights landed on a family of deer standing in the road. My parents’ house is great, except for the getting there part!

There have been a few times in my life where I’ve felt a strong kinship with those deer though. I remember the talent show in high school, where I stood there with my platter of cookies that I’d baked, because I didn’t sing or dance or act or twirl a baton, and baking was the only thing I could think of as a “talent.” Yep, I’m sure I looked just like those deer as I stood on that stage.

I remember standing on another stage, this time in Lyon, France at the Quilt Expo in 1996. There was a show and tell gathering, where you brought your quilts or wearable art to show to the audience gathered in this giant hall. Anyone could go up on stage and share what they’d brought, all you had to do was fill out a card and stand in line until it was your turn. Judy Murrah, of Jacket Jazz fame, was the emcee, and would read what you wrote on the card as you walked across the stage and showed your quilt.

I’m not sure what convinced me that I wanted to go up there since I’ve always had a major case of stage fright, but somehow I found myself up on that stage showing off my own Jacket Jazz jacket for all of the thousand people in the audience to see. My best friend Dawn was in the audience way in the back in the standing room only section, and even from there she could see that “deer in the headlights” look that I was wearing along with my jacket! I think I literally shook inside my shoes for a good hour after I clambered off the stage and made my escape.

And then there was last Friday. One of the things that happens when your book is published by AQS is that you are expected to teach at one of the AQS shows around the time the book is published, and I guess if all goes well, they’ll have you back for another round (or two, or more). I’ve been talking with the AQS show director about when this might happen, and she originally said that she had me on the schedule for the Paducah show in 2010, which sounded great since I didn’t have to panic about it quite yet. It was sort of “off in the distance”; in mind, but not right up front where I might start to get worried about it.

I mean, I’ve taught classes before obviously, but I think there’s a HUGE difference between teaching at the Gussy Goose in Stuttgart, or teaching for the local quilt guild, and teaching at one of the biggest quilt shows in the U.S! 😯 So yes, I knew I was headed for this major thing, and I’ve been working on developing workshops that are related to the subject material of my book, since that’s what I thought AQS wanted for the shows.

Friday night, I got an email from the AQS show director saying that I’d be teaching at Des Moines in October, 2009, instead of Paducah in April, 2010. Not only that, but instead of 3.5 days full of classes related to my book, the show director only wants 1.5 days of classes related to the book, and will look at other classes that I teach if I submit them. Eeeek! There it is again, that deer imitation that I do so well.

I sat here, staring at the email, truly wondering what the heck I was going to do. Could any of my current workshops be reworked to fit into a national show format? Is there anything else I have waiting in the wings that would be suitable? I want to teach the full 3.5 days, since it’s such a long way to go for me from here, so I needed to fill out my class offerings with other techniques. I tend to teach long classes with multiple sessions which is not what you get to do at a national quilt show. Three hour focused sessions is the mainstay. I’d been developing book related workshops, but now they didn’t want as many as I had, and oh, by the way, they need my class descriptions NOW, since the registration guide has to be ready by April!

Stuff for new classes

Since imitating a deer wasn’t going to fix it, I got to work. I spent the weekend pulling it together, and reminding myself that I really can do this! I worked on a couple of new workshops and reworked some current ones, so I’ll share some pics in the next few days. And of course, I’ll let you know how it all goes with the show director, but at the moment, I’m making plans to be in Des Moines in October! Want to join me? 🙂

Lessons Learned at Quilt Retreat

The retreat was wonderful, as expected! I did take The Misery Quilt with me to work on, and really made great progress on the machine quilting. It was also good to have other quilters around for input and opinions on some of the decisions that needed to be made about thread colors and quilting patterns while getting started.

And the lessons learned? Never forget extra lighting, extra pillows (to raise the chair height, or keep the butt comfy after hours of sitting on it!), or eye drops. You’d think I’d never been on a retreat before, considering the things I forgot to bring. However, the most important lesson was this: never get so stuck in your box that you don’t try doing things differently once in a while.

The tables at the retreat were much higher than my table at home, which is adjustable and I had it set at about 65 cm off the floor. I bought this table specifically for machine quilting, because I’ve always thought (and been told by all those people who study ergonomics and repetitive stress injuries) that to minimize pain while machine quilting, you should be sitting straight up, with your arms down at your sides and elbows bent at 90 degrees.

What all that means is that my table has to be pretty low, and then my view is usually obstructed by the machine itself. All kinds of maneuvering is required to see what I’m doing, and I usually end up with pain in my neck and back anyway, since I hunch down in the chair to see the needle.

So, off I go to retreat, and the tables are about 74 cm from the floor, and I can see the needle just fine, and I’m not hunching down so much in my chair. And even after nearly five straight days of machine quilting, three at retreat and two after I got home, I don’t have pain in my neck and back. Go figure. Read More

More than one way to skin a … UFO!

Hands All Around block(I purposely did not say “skin a cat” because we don’t skin cats here! And where the heck did that saying come from anyway?) I sent one of my creative works in progress into the wild yesterday, with everything needed to finish it included: pattern, cutting and piecing instructions, and necessary fabrics (except batting and backing, though I can donate those too when the time comes and not even miss them out of my stash!). Other members of the Black Forest Quilt Guild will finish the quilt, and the Guild will raffle the quilt at the Quilt Show next April. I had a quilt plan for this project at one point, and then when it came down to it, realized that I didn’t have enough of the print fabric to make that plan happen, so I had to call in reinforcements to redesign the thing yesterday, when it’s already partly done. Nothing like designing under pressure!

Hands All Around is a block that I just love, though I don’t think I’ve ever finished a quilt with the block in it, now that I think about it. Piecing-wise it’s a bit difficult; I would call it intermediate, but I’ve been told that’s putting it mildly. The curved seams in the middle have to be pinned every step of the way, and then there are bunches of three way, “Y” seams around the outside edge. I can deal with it and most of the time enjoy the precision sewing, but some folks (students in years past when I taught this block in quilting classes) think I created this block as a torture device just for them. Just for the record, I didn’t design the block, I just modified it to look a bit prettier, and at this late date I can’t remember where I saw it first. Read More

Quilt Retreat: Quilt, Eat, Sleep, Repeat!

High on the (very) short list of things to love about living here: spending the weekend quilting (and eating and sleeping) in an 850-year-old monastery. The Kloster Schoental, to be exact. The condensed version: good food, good company, good quilting, happy weekend.

The uncut version: Kloster Schoental is about one hour from my house, the last 20 minutes or so through little towns and scenic curvy roads. The Black Forest Quilt Guild has held it’s spring Quilt Retreat there every year for the last three, I think, and it’s just wonderful. The monastery has been modernized of course, but not to the point of losing it’s essence. We had a giant well lit room for quilting, and single or double rooms for sleeping. They feed us five times a day (yes, FIVE!): breakfast, coffee and tea break with pretzels and savory pastries, lunch, coffee or tea break with sweet cakes, and dinner, and drinks are available anytime. There’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out everywhere, for relaxing, quilting, talking, quilt basting, Irish dancing (really!), whatever. Read More

We interrupt this UFO for a new project!

I spent part of the morning yesterday trying to figure out what to do with the sashing on the UFO Dresden Plate quilt, with no success. I finally started thinking about other projects that I need to do shortly here, and reluctantly put the big quilt aside for a bit. This is why UFO’s are what they are, obviously. I don’t think the UFO will be finished in time for its 11th birthday. 😦 No guilt, though, that’s just the way it goes.

Convergence Quilts

Convergence Quilts,
by Ricky Tims

I needed to pitch something together (or decide to finish some other UFO) for a demo that I’m supposed to give at the Black Forest Quilt Guild meeting in February. I’m supposed to show everyone how to embellish with the Swarovski crystals, but at the moment I don’t have anything around that needs crystalizing! I spent some time thinking and digging through other projects in progress, and didn’t really see any that I thought needed crystals in the end (or that I could finish quickly enough to matter), so I grabbed Convergence Quilts by Ricky Tims, and decided to see how quick and easy that process is. I’ve had the book for at least a year, and haven’t gotten around to doing anything with it. Read More